Sometimes I get frustrated with people I shepherd.
- I sometimes get frustrated when people are complacent about their sin that is destroying them and hurting the people they love.
- I sometimes get frustrated when people get stuck—when they lose interest in continuing to grow.
- I sometimes get frustrated when people gossip, even after we’ve made a big deal for years about how gossip has no place in the church.
- I sometimes get frustrated when people make commitments lightly—they easily agree to do something then don’t follow through.
- I sometimes get frustrated when people who have started following God return to their old ugly lifestyles.
“So,” you ask, “what’s new?” And, of course, none of this is new.
Jesus said that some people would respond quickly to the gospel only for their faith to be choked out by rocks and thorns (Matt. 13:1-23). People who quit growing or go back to their old lives are nothing new.
He also told a parable about two sons. One quickly agreed to help his father, then didn’t go (Matt. 21:28-32). Undependable people are nothing new.
And if gossip in the church were new, we wouldn’t have all those New Testament warnings about gossiping.
When Jesus’ called his knucklehead disciples, “O you of little faith,” I doubt he was smiling. Paul may have been pulling out his hair when he wrote, “You stupid people of Galatia! Who put you under an evil spell?” (Gal. 3:1, God’s Word).
So it’s okay to get frustrated from time to time. But if I get stuck there, as I sometimes do, if my frustration is getting in the way of my enjoying my brothers and sisters, it’s time to look in the mirror. Here’s where Dietrich Bonhoeffer challenges me:
“If we do not give thanks daily for the Christian fellowship in which we have been placed, even when there is no great experience, no discoverable riches, but much weakness, small faith, and difficulty; if on the contrary we only keep complaining to God that everything is so paltry and petty, so far from what we expected, then we hinder God from letting our fellowship grow.”*
When Paul wrote the church at Corinth, perhaps the most troubled of all the New Testament churches, he opened, “I always thank my God for you” (1 Cor. 1:4 NIV). Always. Yes, even when they were being knuckleheads.
God, use my frustrations to remind me to thank you for those who frustrate me, to invite you to let me see them through your eyes, and to rejoice in what you are doing in their lives. Amen.
- List the people who are frustrating you right now.
- Ask God to help you to see each of them through his eyes.
- Ask God to show you how he is at work in their lives.
- Thank God for each of them by name.
*Life Together (Harper & Row, 1954), p. 29.